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Based on evidence available and opinion of the law, Democracy Watch sends letter to RCMP suggesting that Senate scandal investigation should be expanded to cover more people

December 4, 2013

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch sent a 6-page letter to RCMP Commissioner Robert Paulson setting out a detailed opinion about the law, and the evidence, that suggests that the investigation into the Senate scandal should be expanded to include the actions of people other than Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy.

The letter sets out the opinion of Duff Conacher (issued on behalf of Democracy Watch), who has a law degree, and for 20 years has monitored government and business ethics laws in Canada, including teaching a course on the law of ethics in government and business for the past three years at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law.

The letter sets out an explanation of why the law covers others involved in the negotiations that resulted in the payments to Senator Duffy in return for actions by Senator Duffy, and lists the evidence from the recently released affidavit of RCMP Corporal Greg Horton, evidence that clearly raises questions about whether these other people violated the law.  As a result, the letter suggests that the investigation should be expanded to determine whether these other people violated the law.

“It is very important that the RCMP not only follow the evidence wherever it leads, but also that prosecutors properly apply the law to the fact to ensure that all wrongdoers are held accountable, and this is why Democracy Watch has sent the letter to the RCMP setting out its opinion that the law and the evidence suggest the RCMP’s investigation should be expanded to cover people other than just Nigel Wright and Senator Duffy,” said Duff Conacher, Board member of Democracy Watch.  Democracy Watch has an ongoing nation-wide petition and letter-writing drive calling for public confirmation that a fully independent prosecutor is overseeing the Senate scandal investigation to ensure the investigation and prosecution decisions are made based on the facts and the law and no other considerations.

The key measures in the law are section 119(1) of the Criminal Code, which prohibits even offering (as well as giving) “corruptly” any benefit to any public official “in respect of” any action or inaction by the official in their capacity as a public official.  This subsection also prohibits the public official from even attempting to obtain (as well as obtaining) the benefit.  And under section 21 of the Criminal Code, it is a violation to aid or abet anyone in violating any prohibition in the Code, and under section 24 it is a violation to attempt to violate any prohibition in the Code.

There are no court rulings on subsection 119(1).  Based on rulings concerning a similar section in the Code (subsection 426(1)), Democracy Watch’s opinion is that there does not have to be a “corrupt bargain” or a trading of favours between the person who offers or gives the benefit and the public official attempting to obtain or taking the benefit to be in violation of subsection 119(1).  All that is needed for a violation is for the benefit to be given in a corrupt way (for example, in secret with a commitment to keep it secret), and for the benefit to be “in respect of” actions or inactions by the official.

The evidence in Corporal Horton’s affidavit shows that at least three people other than Nigel Wright were involved in the secret negotiations involving offers of benefits, and payments of money, to Senator Duffy in return for at least three actions by Senator Duffy in his capacity as a senator.  And the evidence shows that there at least one other person was involved in attempting to obtain, and obtaining, benefits and payments of money for Senator Duffy in return for at least three actions by Senator Duffy in his capacity as a senator.

The secrecy of the negotiations and agreements, the resignation or firing of Nigel Wright, and the agreement by many of the people involved to issue public statements that concealed that the benefits had been given to Senator Duffy, and misled the public about the facts of the situation, is all evidence that the benefits were offered and given to Senator Duffy “corruptly”.

For all of the above reasons, Democracy Watch is requesting that the RCMP confirm publicly whether it will investigate people other than Nigel Wright and Senator Duffy.

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Duff Conacher, Board member of Democracy Watch
Tel: 613-241-5179
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign